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> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > The Farm Servant

The Farmer's Servant

[ Roud 792 ; Ballad Index DTraptap ; Bodleian Roud 792 ; trad.]

The Farmer's Servant is a song from the repertoire of Norfolk singer Harry Cox. Alan Lomax recorded him singing this song in Sutton, Norfolk, in November 1953. In 2000, this recording was included on Harry Cox's CD What Will Become of England?.

This cheeky song was sung by Martin Carthy unaccompanied live at St. Andrews, Scotland in 1965. This track was released in 2001 on The Carthy Chronicles.

Compare this to A.L. Lloyd's two versions on his 1962 album English Drinking Songs and on his 1966 album The Best of A.L. Lloyd. He said in the former album's sleeve notes:

Those who don't know him imagine the East Anglian farm-hand to be deferential, even servile. Nothing is further from the truth. He is, as the songs say, inclined to mind his master's business “as servants always done”. But under that innocent phrase lies a sly meaning that many a master has never appreciated until it was too late. In melody, the song is a cousin of the well-known Lincolnshire Poacher. In shape, it recalls the commercial hit of a year or two back, The Thing. It is a song that evokes a nudge, a wink and a quickly stifled guffaw, if the squire is with his friends in the adjacent saloon bar.

and on the latter album:

The oldtime yokels were not always so thickheaded as they pretended to be. Likewise bumpkin humour often concealed a barb. This song, very common in Norfolk and Suffolk, offers an artful view of the servant's attitude to his master, and of his diligence in looking after his master's business “as servants always done”. The broad rustic grin has sharp teeth behind it here. So far, the song has remained unprinted.

Lyrics

Martin Carthy sings The Farmer's Servant

Now when I was a farming servant I liked my bit of fun
I minded my master's business as a servant should have done
When he went out in the afternoon to view the fields so gay
And I was round the back door with my [bm bm bm] and never a word to say

Now it happened on a Thursday when my master to market did go
He told me to mind his business as servants always do
And as soon as my master he was gone I blundered out of the barn
I was round the back door with my [bm bm bm] and never a thought of harm

Now my mistress she come down to the door and she quickly invited me in
When I complained of the bellyache she give to me some gin
She give to me some gin, my lads, oh then we had some more
And there I was with my [bm bm bm] as I'd never been before

Now we had not been a-courting not half an hour or more
Me mistress took so well to the sport, I thought she'd never give o'er
“You've won my heart and head,” she said, “your master's not for me
Cause he can't manage the [bm bm bm] not half as well as thee.”

Now when my master he come home, he asked me how I'd got on
I minded your business master as a servant should have done
He give me cake and ale, my lads, but little did he know
If he'd a known about the [bm bm bm] he never would have done so

A.L. Lloyd sings The Farmer's Servant

When I was a farmer servant I liked my bit of fun
I always minded my business as servants always done
Whenever my master he went out to view the fields so gay
I'de be round the back door with my [bm bm bm] and never a word to say, no,
Never a word to say.

It was on a Thursday afternoon my master to market did go
He told me to mind his business as servants always do
As soon as my master he was gone I blundered out of that barn
And I was round the back door with my [bm bm bm] and never a thought of harm, no,
Never a thought of harm.

The mistress she come to the door and asked me to come in
When I complained of the bellyache she give to me some gin
She give to me some gin, my boys, with never a word to say
Well, there I was with my [bm bm bm] and a-courting we went straightway, we did,
A-courting we went straightway.

Now we had not been a-courting not half an hour or more
Me mistress took so well to the sport, I thought she'd never give o'er
“You've won my heart forever,” she cried, “your master no more for me.
For he can't manage the [bm bm bm] not half so good as thee, my love,
Not half so good as thee.”

Well when my master he come home, he asked me how I got on
I told him I minded his business as servants always done
He give to me best ale, my boys, and little did he know
That I'd been there with my [bm bm bm], if he had he'd never done so, I'm sure,
If he had he'd never done so.

Acknowledgements

Martin Carthy's version transcribed by Garry Gillard; A.L. Lloyd's version transcribed by Reinhard Zierke.